7 Ways Stores Get You to Spend More and How to Avoid Falling for Their Traps

by Kaitlyn Ranze

We all know that feeling. You walk into a store, see something you like, and before you know it, you’re buying things you never even knew you needed. It’s like the store was designed to get you to spend as much money as possible!

And that’s because, well, it probably was. Most stores are designed with specific strategies in mind to get us to open our wallets and hand over our hard-earned cash. But the good news is, once you know what these tricks are, you can avoid them and save yourself some money.

Here are some of the ways stores are designed to get you to spend and how you can overcome it.

They set the mood

In this money shopping meme gif, Rachel Zoe explains shows how we fall for stores tricks by buying more than we intend to.

Stores are masters at playing on your emotions to get you to spend more. For example, did you know that stores will often use music to influence your spending? Studies have shown that slower-paced music makes shoppers move more slowly and spend more time in the store, while faster-paced music encourages them to move quickly and make impulse purchases.

Whether it’s using music to make you feel happy and carefree or offering special deals that seem too good to pass up, they know how to push all the right buttons.

Anchor pricing

Or have you ever noticed how stores tend to place their cheapest items near the door? That’s because they want to give you what’s known as “anchor pricing.” This is when you see a low price and it makes all the other prices in the store seem more reasonable in comparison, even if they’re actually quite high. They’ll also put a high-end item alongside cheaper items. The shopper’s brain then subconsciously compares the prices, making the cheaper items seem like a bargain.

Loss aversion

Stores also like to use what’s called “loss aversion” to get us to spend. This is when we’re more motivated to avoid losses than to seek gains. So, for example, a store might offer a discount if you buy a certain number of items, but also add an extra fee if you don’t spend enough. This encourages us to spend more to avoid the loss of that discount. (Memorial Day Sale, anyone?)

Decoy effect

Another common strategy is called the decoy effect. This is when stores offer two similar products, but with one being slightly more expensive than the other. The shopper’s brain then perceives the cheaper option as being the better deal, even if it’s not necessarily true.

Stores make it easy to spend

In this money meme/gif, Aziz Ansari's character is lamenting how he wants immediate satisfaction from his purchase by receiving it immediately. Header says "When I can't get free 24-hour shipping"

Another way stores get you to overspend is by making it easy. Brick and mortar stores are known for accepting all different types of payments, but also offer store credit cards. Online stores offer one-click check outs, offering store credit cards, or buy now pay late programs are all designed to get you to buy more, not save more.

They offer rewards programs

Who doesn’t love getting rewarded for shopping? But the truth is, these rewards programs are designed to keep us coming back for more. The points and rewards we earn entice us to spend more in order to get bigger and better rewards, and before we know it we’re spending way more than we ever intended.

They make returns easy

Picture this: you’re out shopping, you find something you love, and you just have to have it. But then you get it home and realize it doesn’t quite work with your existing wardrobe, or it’s not as comfortable as you thought. So what do you do? You take it back to the store and return it, no problem.

But have you ever stopped to think about how easy returns might be affecting your spending? It turns out, that stores are counting on you not thinking too hard about it.

Here’s the thing: when returns are easy, we’re more likely to overspend.

We buy things on impulse, knowing that we can always take them back if we change our minds. And that’s exactly what stores want us to do.

So how can you avoid overspending at the store? The next time you’re tempted to buy something on a whim, take a step back and ask yourself if you really need it. And if you’re not sure, see if you can wait a day or two before making the purchase. Chances are, you’ll be able to talk yourself out of it.

When it comes to returns, easy should not equal automatic. By being mindful of how easy returns can influence our spending, we can avoid overspending and save ourselves money in the long run.

But there are ways to fight back, reduce your impulse spending, and avoid the traps set by stores. Here’s how:

1. Be aware of sale signage

Sales are one of the most common ways stores get us to overspend. They dangle the promise of a good deal in front of us, and we can’t resist. But be aware that not all sales are created equal. Stores will often use what’s called loss leader pricing, where they sell an item at a loss in order to get us in the door. Then, once we’re inside, we’ll be tempted by all the other full-priced items. Or they might use what’s called reference pricing, where they make their items seem like a bargain by listing the regular price next to the sale price (even if the regular price is artificially high). Pay attention to sale signage and don’t be fooled.

Meet transaction swiping: Become more in tune with how you feel about your spending.

2. Shop with cash

When we use credit cards or debit cards, it’s easy to spend more than we have. We don’t see the money leaving our account immediately, so it doesn’t feel real. Shopping with cash is a great way to stay mindful of your spending. When you hand over those hard-earned bills, you’ll be less likely to overspend.

3. Steer clear of the impulse buy aisle

You know which aisle I’m talking about – the one with all the candy and knick-knacks near the check-out counter. Stores know that we’re more likely to make impulse buys when we’re tired and ready to leave. So they put these items in strategic locations to tempt us. Avoid the temptation by steering clear of the aisle altogether.

4. Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry

Have you ever noticed that you’re more likely to buy unhealthy food when you’re hungry? That’s because our hunger makes us more impulsive. So if you’re trying to stick to a budget, it’s best to not go shopping when you’re hungry. Otherwise, you might end up overspending on things you don’t need.

5. Take a list

It’s always a good idea to make a list before you go shopping. That way, you’ll know exactly what you need to buy and you won’t be tempted by all the other items in the store. If you find yourself straying from your list, ask yourself if the item is really necessary. Chances are, it’s not.

In the money shopping gif, "Emily oo Paris" explains how shopping just makes her feel better.

6. Don’t shop when you’re emotional

We’ve all been there – we’re feeling sad, stressed, or angry and we decide to go shopping to make ourselves feel better. But retail therapy is a real thing, and it can quickly lead to overspending. next time you’re feeling down, try doing something else to make yourself feel better. Go for a walk, call a friend, or watch a movie. You’ll be glad you didn’t overspend on that new outfit you don’t really need.

Stores are designed to get us to overspend, but we don’t have to fall for their tricks. By being aware of their tactics and making some simple changes, we can avoid their traps and

Related Reads

10 Ways to Avoid Overspending

How to Stop Impulse Spending and Blowing Your Budget

How Tracking Transactions Can Actually Reduce Stress

7 Bad Money Habits and How to Break Them

How to Save Money By Practicing Mindfulness


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